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Hydration technique

johnwoods's picture

Where can I find simple info on general hydration technique?

243 users have voted.


johnwoods's picture
johnwoods 2011 March 9

I'm a newby. --- If I have a recipe which Is of a particular

hydration level. How do I change this and what would the result be?

In fact I need to know all about hydration levels.

Thank you.


wadada's picture
wadada 2011 March 10

Search on this forum, there is plenty of information from experienced people.  Also, buy a good book on baking bread, there are great books that will teach you all about hydration levels.

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2011 March 10

Hi John - hydration refers to the % water compared to flour. 

For example 100% hydration starter means a starter that has equal weight flour and water, 50% hydration would be half the weight of water compared to flour.  eg 50g flour and 50g water  = 100%, 100g flour and 50g water = 50% hydration starters.

Always take the flour weight as 100%, so if your dough recipe uses 500g flour and you want to make a wet ciabatta like dough, your hydration will be approx 80%, this means 80% of the flour weight (500g) will be how much water you add.  In this case it will be 400g water.

The higher the % hydration the wetter the dough or more liquid the starter will be.

Generally speaking wetter doughs will also have nice big holes in the crumb, and drier/firmer doughs with lower hydration will have a closer more dense crumb.

It is the end of the day, and I am a little brain dead from staring at budget figures all afternoon, so I havent expressed myself as good as I could have, but I hope you understand my drift.  there is some excellent information on this website regarding this, so have a search around.  I'm sure Dom must have a good blog about this in the beginners section.

Let us know if you have more questions.


johnwoods's picture
johnwoods 2011 March 10

That reply answered some of my questions. Here's one in particular:  I'm getting loaves which have a puffy top. Is this too much liquid or what?

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2011 March 11

By puffy top do you mean an airpocket?  If so, this could be due to the shaping of the loaf prior to baking.  what technique do you use to make your bread.  This info might help.

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2011 March 12

By machine do you mean a bread maker (ie something that mixes and bakes the bread) or a stand mixer?  If it's the former, then  can't help sorry, I've never used one.  Do you make sourdough or yeasted bread?

johnwoods's picture
johnwoods 2011 March 12

Hi K,

I use a starter but augment with yeast in a bread machine.

I guess that means I'm on my own in the bread making arena.
Hippocrates said make food your medecine and medecine your food.
A very wise man.

I have macular degeneration and wish to slow its progress with appropriate foods contained in my bread.

Luteine and zeoxanthan to be specific.
So far I've bought some Marigold petals rich in these elements with some mustard greens for sprouting to come.
I'm thinking that it may be best to include the petals in the bread and use the sprouts as filling for sandwiches.
Green bread would turn me off!
Maybe the petals would work in a straight sourdough.

Any thoughts welcome.



HVHB 2011 March 12

 Hi John John Ridley John Woods,

I don't know much about the health/nutrition side of your additives, but I'm sure many of us would be interested in hearing more about it, as you learn more.

Hydration is one of those relatively simple things that we bakers like to make sound complex; this is probably due to its importance and influence on the final product.  There are both science and art involved in the making of bread; hydration is on the science side.

Karnie has given a good explanation of what hydration level is; I will try to tell you a little bit more of my understanding about it.  As far as I understand it, and I'm just an amateur baking 32 to 40 loaves per week, higher hydration means your dough can stretch more, and more easily.  If your dough is over-hydrated your bread may spread outwards before upwards (not really a problem in your bread-maker), develop holes too big (if that's not what you're after) and exaggerate flaws in your shaping (can't be helped if you're bread-maker is at fault).  I think beginners often think higher hydration is better, but it has its limitations - some of these mentioned above.  

I think hydration levels are important to understand in their appropriate context.  I can give an example of its relevance in my baking currently.  I work with two supplies of flour, (one is a back up when my preferred supply fails), each of which have significantly different properties which affect the necessary hydration levels of the dough stage.  Both flours are high protein, around 14%, which often has a bearing on hydration, I believe.  Flour A has slightly more bran retained in the sifting process; Flour B is bleached and finer.  Flour A has a higher moisture content in it's 'dry flour' state ie before it is made into dough.

Now, I'm going to have to rein this ramble in a bit...  To make the "same" bread Flour A NEEDS a hydration of 86 to 92%, Flour B fails at above 70% - a significant difference in hydration.  I believe this has partially to do with the retained bran in Flour A, its (I think) slightly higher protein content, and THEN also something to do with the hygroscopic (adsorption and absorption) properties of each flour.  I won't go too much into that because the science of bread making is kind of fascinating, but if you get too caught up in it you'll lose the imagination, craft, soul, instinct and love that better bakers work into their bread. (AND this is where I stop reading the text books and decide I don't need to know...!)

So, in short, your air pockets may possibly be reduced by lowering the hydration, but this is hard to say in the case of a bread machine which doesn't really 'form' the dough.

I don't think you NEED to know ALL about hydration, because it is rather dull and takes the art out of bread, which is what most of us love about baking.

Rant complete...


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